“We held counsel concerning our larder,” Sir Frederick explained, as the girl looked questioningly from man to man, “and agreed that since you had honoured us, we could not dare to starve you and Mrs. Meredith on salt pork and sea biscuit. So, last night, Andre and I, with our two servants, laid hold of a boat, crossed the Delaware, levied tribute on a fat Jersey farm, and returned ere day had come. Item.—To disobeying the general orders by stealing through the lines: one hundred lashes on the bare back. Item.—For ordering a soldier to break the rules of war: ten days in the guardhouse. Item. —For plundering, contrary to proclamation: death by shooting. Wilt drop a tear o’er my grave, fair lady?”
“Oh, sirs!” exclaimed Janice, “you should not—to take such risk—”
“Not since I went birds-nesting in Kent have I had such a night’s sport,” declared Andre, gleefully. “And the thought that we were checkmating that scoundrel Clowes did not bate the pleasure. If he were fit company for gentlemen we have him to dinner to-day, just to spoil his appetite with sight of our cates.”
“You do not like— Why do you call Lord Clowes scoundrel?” asked Janice.
Mobray shrugged his shoulders as he made answer: “On enough grounds and to boot. But ’t is sufficient that he gave his parole to the rebels, and then broke it by escaping to our lines. He is a living daily disgrace to the uniform we all wear, and yet his influence is so powerful with Sir William that we can do nothing against him. Pray Heaven that some day he’ll not be able to keep in the rear, and that the rebels recapture and give him the rope he merits.”
In contrast to the past, the next few days were very happy ones to Janice. Her mother mended steadily, and was soon able to come to meals and to stay downstairs. The servants relieved the girl of all the household drudgery, and spared her from all dwelling on her empty purse. As for the young officers, they could not do enough to entertain her, and, it is to be suspected, themselves. Piquet was quite abandoned, and in place of it nothing would do Andre but he must teach Janice to paint. Not to be thrown in the background, Mobray produced his flute, and, thanks to a fine harpsichord Franklin had imported for his daughter, was able to have numberless duets with the maiden. Then they took short rides to the south of the city, where the Delaware and Schuylkill safeguarded a restricted territory from rebel intrusion, and daily walks along the river-front or in the State House Gardens, where one of the bands of a few regiments garrisoning the city played every afternoon for the amusement of the officers and townspeople, and where Janice was made acquainted with many a young macaroni officer or feminine toast. Save for the high price of provisions, and the constant war talk, Philadelphia bore little semblance to being in a state of semi-siege, and the prize which two armies were striving to hold or win, not by actual conflict, but by a strategy which aimed to keep closed or to open sources of supplies.